May 3, 2011

Kings and Queens and the Rest of Us

I have to first wish belated congratulations to Prince William and Princess Catherine.  Although I didn’t stay up late enough to watch the wedding, I did click through several online photo albums this week and it appears everything went as intended.  I’m going to date myself by saying I wasn’t born yet when Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married, but I’ve seen enough TV programs and news clips to appreciate the excitement and splendor that came with the event.

Despite the changing times the idea of monarchies still holds an allure that shows up time and again in the media we consume and the stories we tell.  From the royal houses in Europe to the imperial dynasties of Japan and China voluminous amounts of fiction have been written and show no sign of letting up.  Like many aspects of the past, royalty has become romanticized and we find ourselves imagining a different time of Kings and Queens, Knights and Pages, and the like.  Honestly, who hasn’t at one point or another pretended to be a king or queen during their childhood?  Seriously, you know you have J  I still have memories of going to a cousin’s home and stuffed away in a box was a red cape with black and white fur around the edges accompanied by a plastic gold crown.  We gleefully took turns playing King and lording over our realm (which usually included the basement, adjoining laundry room, and nearby stairway).

Kings, Queens and the like have been in our popular imagination for so long and I’d like to postulate a few reasons for the continuing appeal.

Your Wish is My Command…
How many times in life have we said, “If only I could do this,” or “If I were in charge I’d do that.”  In our modern world so many events take place that are out of our control and it’s tough sometimes to keep a handle on our lives.  Kings and Queens hold a stereotype in our minds of being able to use absolute power to do what they wish and whenever they please.  It’s the notion of uninhibited power and the idea of people being able to make something happen because you said so.  Obviously the political realities of a monarchy were not always that cut and dry, but it doesn’t stop us from wishing we were just one order or command away from getting something done without any obstacles.

Location, Location, Location…
Monarchies remain in our subconcious because for centuries they were located in the center of a country’s happenings and I don’t mean geographically.  Like the any modern seat of government the royal courts were where the action was at economically, politically and often religiously.  The kings and queens held and pulled the levers of power along with their influential advisors and associates.  When you’re located at the center of power you often create enough intrigue and stories to be at the center of history as well.

The Lap of Luxury...
You knew this one was coming.  Elaborate crowns for men, stunning tiaras for women along the finest clothes and robes available at the time, not to mention Castles, palaces and the like.  Royalty is typically associated not just with power, but wealth too and many monarchs have lived lavish lives to prove it.  Although most people would say be spoiled is a bad thing, it’s hard to also say you’d wouldn’t at least be tempted to live the pampered lifestyle that comes with being royalty if it were offered.

What’s your take on monarchies of past and present?  Have you ever fantasized about playing King or Queen and ruled over your subjects in the land of make believe?